Other horror stories of R. E. Howard

Robert E. Howard wrote several pieces of horror fiction. On the collection I have, Delphi Complete Works of Robert E. Howard, these are marked under the title "Other Horror Stories", as they don't have an identifiable theme of being westerns, fantasy or at least directly inspired by Lovecraft.

The Dream Snake A nightmare of a giant serpent haunts Faming each night.  In his dream he is hiding somewhere in Africa, sharing a bungalow with a Hindoo, who is, like him, a fugitive of the law. The dream is very real, like a memory of a life long past. He remembers the feelings, the thoughts, the other history of him, but each time he wakes he forgets it, only remembering that he remembered.

The snake is a part of it, a part of the dream. Hunting the men living in the bungalow. Through the night Faming stands on a table, a gun in his hands, fretting the snake to enter the house to finally catch him. It never does though, but he knows that if it ever will, it would kill him.

You already might guess the inevitable conclusion of the story and the amazement of Famings friends when they finally find him, dead on the floor, like after a struggle with something invisible.

The Dream Snake is a quite an effective little horror story. It is well narrated and stays on its course to the admittedly predictable ending. It is a kind of a supernatural horror story, where someone is haunted by ghost or memory of a previous life. It doesn't matter if their current self is guilty of any wrongdoing, it's the past sins that matter.

The Hyena A young American Steve is working at a ranch in Africa, where he meets Senecoza, a fetish man, whom he instantly distrusts. At part, he confesses, of the distrust comes from a feeling of inferiority, as the man has a commanding presence and is tall and leanly built.

Steve's distrust towards Senecoza grows when he notices him eying young and beautiful American girl, Ellen Farel, who comes to the ranch to spend some time. The distrust grows even further, as Ellen seems to be quite friendly with the fetish man.

In the end, the tension boils when Senecoza does his move and decides to kill the white ranchers and get the girl for himself. He uses his charm, intelligence and magic to get the locals behind him and launches his attack on everyone who stands in his way.

While the Hyena doesn't walk the full mile to it, it is partially somewhat reflective towards racial prejudices. Steve gives some thought towards his own feelings of prejudice, as he doesn't quite fully grasp why he feels threatened by the fetish-man. Perhaps with a longer story, Howard could have been more successful with this theme, but now it ends up being just a supernatural horror story.

The Fearsome Touch of Death A simple tale of a man, Falred, who spends a lonely night in a vigil of a recently deceased Adam Farrel. He starts the vigil by reassuring doctor Stein, that he will be alright, as he has no qualms about being in a room with a cadaver.

After being left alone, Falred decides to take some shut-eye. He then wakes up from a nightmare and becomes convinced that the corpse of Farrel is awake and means to harm him.

The Fearsome Touch of Death is a psychological tale of horror, that follows the quick event of one kind of succumb into the madness. If there is anything genuinely supernatural in the events Falred witnesses and goes through is left to the reader to decide. All in all, quite an effective and somewhat of a very un-Howard like short story.

The Cairn on the Headland A tale of a blackmail decades old. Ortali, a vile but intelligent man has kept a threat of a murder rap over the head of James O'Brien, whose good luck in life and the ability to get his hands on ancient relics he has exploited to fullest.

The duo is now Ireland, where they are trying to locate a burial mound. The legends tell it is a burial place of Odin himself, as he was buried there by the priests after the Irish finally managed to beat the
Vikings in a bloody battle.

The old legends turn out to be true, as when Ortali opens the burial mound, he manages to release Odin from his slumber. James O'Brien is saved only because of the intervention by his long dead, distant relative.

The Cairn on the Headland is more about the bizarre relationship between Ortali and O'Brien than it is about horror. While the climax of the story has quite an effective bit in it about the resurrection of the ancient deity, the main bulk of the story probes the histories of the duo. All in all, a solid story.

Casonetto's Last Song A man named Gordon gets mail behind a grave when he receives a record from a diabolical opera singer Casonetto after his execution. The reason Casonetto has remembered Gordon with his message from beyond is, that Gordon is responsible for his imprisonment and execution

While the concept of the story is interesting, it's not a particularly remarkable story. A short and quite readable story but that's pretty much it.

Dermod's Bane A young man returns to his ancestral roots after the death of his twin sister, as he has heard a tale, that the city of Galway has a spell upon it that soothes a sorrowful heart. With a broken heart, the man goes to the home of his family, little knowing, that there are ghosts of the old world there meaning him harm.

Dermond's Bane is a simple enough of a ghost story and somewhat of an uncharacteristic piece for Howard. Instead of a fierce warrior, it stars a young man, who is grieving a loved one. While it as a story stands alone, it does reference, like many other Howard stories, of names and people he has used in his other works. But while there might be some sort of a connected universe building going on, this little melancholic piece is an intriguing one-off, where Howard manages to display another kind of a side of his writing skills.

The Noseless Horror A noted Egyptologist Sir Thomas Cameron has invited two men to his secluded mansion. John Gordon and the narrator of the story arrive at the mansion are met by Cameron's new servant, a noseless Sikh Ganra Singh, whom the men find instantly dubious.

The reason Sir Cameron has invited the men to his mansion is to display them his newest find, a remarkably well-preserved mummy. So, an Egyptologist, a preserved mummy and a noseless servant in a story named the Noseless Horror.

As these stories go, the supernatural threat doesn't come from the person that is the most suspicious one. It's the mummy people should be afraid of and it really is Singh who actually saves day in the end. A pretty solid story for what you might expect from Howard.

Spectres in the Dark The narrator of the tale gets an unexpected visitor in a form of a former companion his when a heavy fisted Michael Costigan visits him one evening. This ex-boxer tells him of his voes, mainly of things he has seen and felt lately, like if he's been watched by some entity he can't quite see, but of which he can feel. Ghosts, he believes, are on his heels, mainly another boxer he killed in a ring when he still boxed.

Steve calms the big man down and the next day he gets a visit from his close friend Hallworthy, who brings along his wife Joan, the sister of Steve's. They tell him news of old acquaintances of theirs and how the other, Van Dorm, has seemingly murdered the other, a wheelchair-bound Falrath.

Together they go to see Van Dorm, as they can't believe a gentle soul like him would be capable of murder, but the only thing they get out from him is a tale of shadows in the dark. A very unlikely culprit to a murder and they suspect insanity.

Now, I can't really go any further in detail, as the version of the story I have is sadly incomplete and I can't rightly say if it is the fault of the collection I have or if the story itself was left unfinished by Howard. And that is a shame, as the story itself is quite good.


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